Game 15 Recap: New Damage

"When new damage comes
It's a faceless poison
A new world order
It's new damage done
The wreck is going down
Get out before you drown"
--"New Damage" by Soundgarden

The Jackets came into this game looking to erase the stink of a 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Flyers on Saturday. It was a long layoff to be stewing over that game. The Blackhawks came in losers of three in a row (0-2-1) and looking to get right by feasting on the lowly Jackets.

After all the talk of changing the system ("We didn't make that big a drastic change," coach Scott Arniel said. "Every single player in that room--either last year or somewhere else--have played what we did tonight."), it was nothing but new damage for a reeling Blue Jackets team. Whether the poison is truly faceless or not, it has taken effect and has left this club searching for answers that never seem to come.

1st Period

It wasn't the greatest of starts for Columbus, and the Hawks would largely dominate the first period. Early on it was Samuel Pahlsson with two dreadful turnovers in his own zone--one looked like he was literally passing it to Marian Hossa--not even 90 seconds in. 

It didn't get much better when James Wisniewski took a bad hooking penalty at the 3:20 mark. Chicago's last-in-the-league Power Play couldn't get going, and really only generated one chance when Patrick Sharp launched a shot from the left point that went wide, but rebounded back off of the boards and hit the back of Steve Mason's leg. The puck trickled across the crease, but no Blackhawks could stuff it home. The Jackets killed off the rest of the penalty easily.

However, not much longer in, the Blackhawks--who were winning all the puck battles and generally out-skilling Columbus--came in on the right side. Brent Seabrook brought the puck deep, and flung it toward the goal. Viktor Stalberg got a stick on it, and Mason made the initial save. However, the puck rebounded right onto the stick of a crashing Jonathan Toews, who easily snapped it home.

1-0 Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews (6th) at 6:54 from Viktor Stalberg and Brent Seabrook - EV

Could the Jackets answer? Shortly after, the answer was yes. Derek Dorsett tried to get his team fired up by tangling with Steve Montador at the 8:23 mark, which earned both five for fighting. Whether it was actually a *fight* is open for debate.

After Stalberg went off for a hook of Antoine Vermette at 9:35, the struggling Jackets' PP wasted no time at all--12 seconds--in getting on the board. The puck found its way to Grant Clitsome at the left point, and he let go a bomb that got by Corey Crawford with a little help from a Vinny Prospal screen down low.

1-1: Grant Clitsome (2nd) at 9:47 from Derick Brassard and Vinny Prospal - PPG

Normally, the Jackets tend to let down just enough to allow a goal to be answered by their opposition. Credit Mason, who played well for most of the rest of the period. The Jackets continued to get dominated, and after several close calls--Hossa skated in and undressed Wisniewski for a clean shot at Mason at 10:51, the Jackets gave up a dreadful 4-on-2 rush at the 11:49 mark, and Mason was forced to make a wide-open stop on Bryan Bickell at 14:29--the Hawks would strike again.

And, after all of the nice saves, it was a pretty bad one for Mason.

Nick Leddy dropped the puck to Toews at the blue line, and Toews charged in wide on the left side. He zipped a shot that seemed to surprise Mason (it reminded me of one of the goals he let in against Toronto last Thursday) and beat him five-hole from a sharp angle.

2-1 Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews (7th) at 17:09 from Nick Leddy - EV

"That wasn't a very good goal," Arniel said. Jared Boll--who announced his return with a thunderous check on Duncan Keith at the 16:20 mark, would end the period in the box, after going off for roughing at the 19:34 mark.

End of 1st Period: 2-1 Blackhawks

2nd Period

It would quickly get worse. Much worse.

On the carried-over Power Play, the dreadful (30th in the league!) Hawks Power Play would get untracked. Mason would make the initial save on a Marcus Kruger shot attempt, but the puck bounced behind his left leg... right to Andrew Brunette, who easily lifted it over Mason's leg for a Power Play goal.

3-1 Blackhawks: Andrew Brunette (3rd) at 1:25 from Marcus Kruger and Steve Montador - PPG

The Jackets, not content to let the previously-sleeping Hawks PP lie, decided it would be good to test themselves again. Clitsome went off at 8:25 for a slash, and the Blackhawks would make the Jackets pay. Keith managed to feed a centering pass to a wide-open Montador--who was literally just standing in the slot 15 feet from the goal--who had no trouble beating Mason.

4-1 Blackhawks: Steve Montador (1st) at 9:07 from Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy - PPG

The Jackets had a chance to die with dignity, as the Hawks would take successive penalties at 9:29 (Carcillo for a high stick) and 11:46 (Bickell for a trip). In the complete summation of their struggles thus far, toward the end of the first penalty there was a scrum involving R.J. Umberger in front of the net where the puck was tied up. It trickled off to the side, where Rick Nash was standing all alone. The puck literally went right to him. In a fitting metaphor for the night and the season, Crawford appeared out of the pile in front to be square right in front of Nash, and stoned the Jackets Captain.

To add one last bit of insult to injury in the second period, the Jackets got lazy with a line change, and left Patrick Kane all alone at the blue line. A home run pass from Carcillo found Kane, who skated in uncontested on Mason, and beat him with the deke.

5-1 Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (5th) at 18:54 from Daniel Carcillo and Niklas Hjalmarsson - EV

That would (mercifully) end the second period. After a thorough 40 minutes of beating, there were still 20 minutes to play.

End of 2nd Period: 5-1 Blackhawks

3rd Period

Chicago felt no mercy. It took less than 30 seconds for it to get even worse. With Mason down in front, the Hawks got a couple whacks in, and Hossa finally had time to settle it and elevate it over Mason.

6-1 Blackhawks: Marian Hossa (8th) at 0:32 from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook - EV

Columbus would try to salvage a little dignity (if that's possible), by again capitalizing on the Power Play against a pretty good PK unit. Fedor Tyutin sent the puck behind the goal, where Nash was there to wrap it around. He fed newest Jacket Mark Letestu right in front, who managed to get it past Crawford. For Letestu, it was his first goal as a Blue Jacket in his first game as a Blue Jacket. For Nash, it was the 500th point of his career. "I'd rather have two points [from] a win than that," Nash said afterward.

6-2 Blackhawks: Mark Letestu (1st) at 2:20 from Rick Nash and Fedor Tyutin - PPG

As the garbage-time portion of the game took over, the Jackets were able to at least give their fans some free chili. Again it was Clitsome, who launched another bomb from the point that beat Crawford.

6-3 Blackhawks: Grant Clitsome (3rd, 2nd of the game) at 16:14 from Vinny Prospal and Fedor Tyutin - EV

The Jackets would put forth a spirited effort the rest of the way and the Blackhawks were content to sit back and bleed the clock. Columbus got some chances, but couldn't capitalize.

Final Score: Blackhawks 6, Blue Jackets 3

Standard Bearers:

  • Grant Clitsome - If only because I wanted to let the Jackets finally score first [rim shot]. Two goals on the night for Clitsome, both of the point-bomb variety. That has to be a good sign for Clitter.
  • Jonathan Toews - His sharp-angle late-first-period goal opened the flood gates. Granted, it was a softy on Mason, but it was enough to get the Jackets to hang their heads, and put the cap on a bitterly awful first period. On the night Toews had two goals on four shots as well as an assist and was +3.
  • Corey Crawford - He made several sterling saves to rob the Jackets back when the game was close enough that it mattered. Overall, he allowed three goals on 30 shots, but some of those 27 saves were complete morale-busters.
  • Mark Letestu - A goal in his first game, and I noticed that he has a good motor and some skill with the puck. Hopefully the fresh start and an increased role can pay dividends for him.

Bottom of the Barrel: 

  • Jackets' PK - Chicago came in dead-last in the NHL (and is still so, thanks to Columbus's two PPGs), and the Jackets let them get going. Sometimes a PP unit like that that's talented and is scuffling just needs a crack to open, and the Jackets gave Chicago that. Two PPGA to the worst unit in the league AT HOME is not how you win games.
  • Samuel Pahlsson - I barely noticed him, except when he was turning the puck over. He played barely over 12 minutes, and was 4-for-11 in the faceoff circle. Not good at all.
  • "Edge" - I don't really know how to quantify this, but the Jackets had FOUR days to get ready for this game. The Blackhawks came in scuffling to score and had lost three straight. Even with all of that in their favor, Columbus came out flat, let Chicago dictate the play, and helped the Hawks out by turning the puck over EIGHT times in the first period inside their own zone. As I said in the game thread, for at least the first 40 minutes the Jackets were chasers, they lost almost all of their puck battles, and they got out-skilled and out-classed. "We were chasing the puck a lot," Nash said. "We didn't make plays when we had them; they did."

We here at The Cannon have wondered a lot about the lineups that Arniel is icing. When I asked Nash if the constant changes in lines makes it difficult to develop chemistry, he thought for a second and then said: "It's tough to say. When you're losing, things always seem to change. It's not going to be the same lineup every night when you're on a losing streak, so it's something that's part of the game that we have to deal with."

Along the lines of the lineup, when asked directly about why Ryan Johansen got the night off, Arniel said: "It was my decision. Obviously we brought Letestu in, and Ryan's had a tough couple of games. Part of it is his growth, moving forward. I just felt that we had challenged the older veteran group all week long to be better, and I was hoping that they would step up."

"We looked like a group that's very fragile," Arniel said. "Mason made some good stops, but we were stuck in quicksand in the first."

Not a very ringing endorsement of his own job performance.

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